New 2011 Ram 1500 Tradesman Offers Awesome Value


Update 1: Feb-15 2011 3:15 pm PT

Added new towing and hauling figures to the comparison chart.

Out of the box, the two-wheel drive short bed Ram 1500 Tradesman with a 3.55 rear axle will be able to tow up to 9,100 pounds and haul up to 1,580 pounds for a MSRP of $22,780, according to Chrysler.

The two-wheel drive Ram 1500 Tradesman with optional 3.92 rear axle and long bed will be able to pull up to 10,450 pounds and haul up to 1,670 pounds for a MSRP of $23,130.


The was introduced at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show. In our opinion, it’s an aggressive and well-placed shot at Ford, which recently introduced an all-new high-performance 302-horsepower, 3.7-liter standard V-6 for the F-150. But where the F-150 starts at $23,390 (including destination), the Ram 1500 will cost only $22,780 (including destination).

Last year, due to reader demand, we held our first to find the best-performing entry-level full-size pickup. All the trucks we tested came with standard six-cylinder engines and base MSRPs starting around $23,000 — the Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra 1500 were priced higher because of their options. It’s too bad the new 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi-powered 2011 Ram 1500 Tradesman wasn’t part of the comparison. It might have won.

Bare bones regular cab work trucks haven’t traditionally been a competitive segment.

According to RL Polk’s vehicle registration data, over the past five years, there have been two significant trends in regular cab full-size pickups that coincide with the introduction of the 2009 Ford F-150, which dropped a six-cylinder engine from its lineup altogether.

First, from 2005 to 2008, the mix of regular cab V-6 to V-8 trucks was split about in half. After 2009, the split shifted to one-third V-6 and two-thirds V-8. Second, from 2005 to 2008, regular cabs made up about 12 percent of all half-ton sales. After 2009, regular cab share dropped dramatically. Through September 2010, regular cab trucks made up just 7.6 percent of 2010 truck sales.

That could change with the introduction of the Tradesman; Ram expects a shift upward in sales because of the Tradesman’s strong out-of-the-box work capabilities. It can tow up to 10,450 pounds — nearly twice as much as its closest V-6-powered competitors. It will also carry the same EPA-rated 15/20 mpg city/highway fuel economy as the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 WT pickups.

The Tradesman is a tremendous deal compared with the 2011 Ram 1500 ST we tested at the Work Truck Shootout. That stripper was just $145 less than the Tradesman’s sticker, with a 215-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 and worse fuel economy — 14/20 mpg.

If fuel economy is your main concern, even compared with Ford’s thrifty 3.7-liter engine, which is rated at 17/23 mpg, the Hemi V-8 shouldn’t cost much more to operate. We crunched the numbers with an average fuel economy (unloaded) of 17.5 mpg for the Hemi and 20 mpg for the Ford six, and calculated that it would cost an extra $321 a year to drive 12,000 miles in the Tradesman versus the same distance in the F-150, if gas prices average $3.75 a gallon. That’s an extra $26.80 a month — likely worth it for all of the Tradesman’s extra capabilities and power.

How will other manufacturers respond to this threat? Stay tuned. There’s likely to be a knife fight at the low end of the market. And we can’t wait for the all-new fuel-efficient 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 to show up in the Ram 1500, possibly by 2012. That’s likely to put more pressure on all the players and push prices even lower.

As the U.S. economy struggles to regain its footing, it’s a good time to be a work truck shopper.


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